Chris Dzombak

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Do programmers use serial commas more often than other people? (No.)

Do programmers use serial commas more often than other people? (No.)

A few weeks ago, I accidentally got into a Twitter discussion of the serial, or Oxford, comma (this happens to me every couple months). A few programmer friends chimed in, and Dylan asked an interesting question: are programmers generally biased toward the Oxford comma? 18 minutes later, this survey happened.

I’m here today to share the results with you.

Survey design

Given that this was a quick survey in response to a stupid Internet argument, I didn’t put much thought into the survey design. My questions were quick and to the point:

A few people had problems with this.

The first question is somewhat flawed because it lets you choose only absolutes. I hoped this would be okay, for a few reasons:

I got some feedback that the second question was confusing — did I only mean, “are you a professional programmer?” Or was a programming hobby sufficient? What if one was a programmer at a past job, but is no longer?

I figured that most people would know if they generally identified as a programmer-type-person.


Thanks to friends on Twitter and Facebook, I got 163 responses to the survey (after filtering out a bunch of prank duplicate submissions from a coworker — thanks, Mike!).

Of all 163 respondents:

Of the 73 respondents who identified as programmers:

Of the 90 non-programmer respondents:

You can download the response data, minus IP addresses, here: serial_comma_anon.csv.


82.2% of programmer respondents said they always use the comma, compared to 85.6% of non-programmer respondents. These figures are equal enough to be within a reasonable margin of error with such a small sample size.

The data therefore suggest that programmers are more-or-less in line with the rest of the population in serial comma preference. This doesn’t support my original hypothesis (that programmers would be somewhat more inclined to use the comma consistently).